Tag Archives: Ice Age 50

2013 Ice Age 50k

Ten, nine, eight, seven… that was race director Jeff’s countdown to the start of the Ice Age 50k on Saturday. Two, one…go! And we were off into the woods. I wasn’t originally planning on racing Ice Age this year, but when registration opened in December and looked like it was going to fill in less than a day I made a last minute decision to sign up. There were lots of reasons why I shouldn’t. This is an Ironman year, I should be focused on biking, yada yada. Truth is, I needed to focus on a run first. After sitting out much of 2012 due to injury, I wanted some good time on my feet before I had to start focusing on the bike. I’ve made it no secret that I have a rocky relationship with being on two wheels, pedaling and pedaling all.day.long. I would rather be on two feet any day of the week. I figured the race would be good motivation to get my butt in gear over the winter.

Only it didn’t work that way. I struggled to find the motivation I needed. I am going to blame it on the longest and crappiest winter in the history of ever. Between snow and ice and bitter cold, I had a hard time getting out there. Last year I ran the trails all winter in preparation for my 50 miler at Ice Age. Every weekend I looked forward to hitting the trails for hours and hours. This year it was not to be. I was also struggling with how much I should be running. Every time my foot would get a little sore I used it as an excuse to take a day off. I knew I also needed to be swimming and biking, but wasn’t sure how to balance it all. After all, Ironman is the big race this year, I could run 50k in my sleep if I had to…Right?

But the truth is, when you lose all of your running fitness due to injury, you cannot expect to start running again and pick up where you left off. Last spring, I would think nothing of running 70 miles a week. A 25 mile trail run seemed like no big deal, same with running twice a day several times a week. Cue the frustration when a “mere” 10-12 miles felt hard and I looked back at what I was doing last year thinking I should be able to do this, with a little bit of shit, I was crazy back then! mixed inIt’s funny how endurance sports can skew your perspective on things. Sometimes I am shocked when I look back on my training logs for Ironman and see how much I was doing. It all seems so normal when you are actually doing it, but looking back at it from the outside it is easy to see why people think you have lost your damn mind. Needless to say, my confidence was waning. If I couldn’t find the motivation to train for a 50k, how in the heck was I going to train for Ironman?

I came to the decision that the best thing for me to do was to work with a coach. Best decision ever. Though I create training plans for other people all of the time, I lost the trust and ability to do it for myself. I needed someone with an outside perspective to tell me exactly what to do and when to do it. I needed to get out of my own head and not have to think about any of it. Not to mention the accountability factor. If I am paying someone to tell me what to do I am damn well going to do what she says.

Wasn’t this supposed to be a race report? Ok, back to the race. In the 8 weeks leading up to Ice Age, I did a mix of running, biking and swimming. Definitely less running and more biking and swimming than I would have done if left to my own devices, but quite a bit of overall volume (compared to what I was doing at the beginning of the year). I had some good long runs under my belt, but certainly not as many trail miles as I would have liked. The weather just didn’t cooperate for it. I felt prepared going in, and when the first few miles felt effortless, I thought I was going to have a great day out there.

Coming up to the first turnaround at mile 6.5, I counted that I was in 5th place for women. I concentrated on running easy and keeping the effort low. The first out and back section is tough, with lots of hills and uneven single track. I just focused on my nutrition plan and walking the big hills to save energy. By the time the first out and back section was over, I had passed two more women and was running in 3rd place.

The latter part of the race is made up of two identical 9 mile loops where the trails are much wider and easier to run on. I got a little boost when I passed through the start/finish area and saw some of my friends cheering me on. I was able to pick up some speed on the flat miles that followed, and I was feeling good. That good feeling lasted until I reached the back side of the loop and it’s relentless hills. By the time I hit mile 16, my quads were hurting. By mile 18 they were toast. I started to break things into small sections. The next aid station. The start/finish area. The flat miles. I tried not to think about the fact that I still had to do this entire loop again. I didn’t know if my legs would hold up. I did know that it was going to hurt.

Coming through the start/finish again, I stripped off my arm warmers and left them at the aid station. I saw some more friends cheering for me which gave me a little boost, but in my head I was struggling. My quads were absolutely killing me. I was grateful for the next couple of flat miles before I got into the hills again. I broke the rest of the race into 30 and 40 minute increments. When I would take my next salt cap and when I would eat my next gel. Then to the final aid station, then to the finish. Somewhere in there I thought I passed another women from the 50k. It was hard to tell because now we were mixed in with the half marathon runners. Turns out I did pass one woman, but another woman (whom I had passed early in the race) passed me as well, as I would find out later.

The hills were killing me. The downhills were almost worse than the uphills because of my trashed quads. It was time to think about putting one foot in front of the other, of doing nothing besides moving forward. One thing I have learned over the years is that no matter how much it hurts during a race, no matter how slowly the miles tick by, and no matter how much your body is telling you to stop, there is always an end. And when that end comes and you are finished, no matter how good or bad the race was, it always seems that the day has flown by. I always think about this when the going gets tough, that there is indeed an end, and it will come soon enough. I will not hurt forever, so I might as well keep moving.

So that is exactly what I did for the rest of the race. And sure enough, the end came.

It is always sort of surreal when you train hard, race hard, and it is over.

I have no idea why I am smiling in this picture. I think I was so relieved that it was over, and in a bit of disbelief over how much my legs actually hurt. Mostly I was just so happy to be done. I can’t remember a race where my quads hurt that bad, except for perhaps my first or second marathon ever. Certainly not during the 50 miler last year or during any Ironman. But that’s how it goes. All you can do in any given race is give it all that you have on that particular day. You can follow your race plan and take in your fuel and do everything right, and sometimes your legs just freaking hurt. I did everything I could, I gave it all that I had, and this time it was good for 3rd place overall, 2nd in AG.

I would find out later that 2nd place was a mere 34 seconds ahead of me. My mind immediately went to thinking about all of the places in the course of 31 miles where I could have shaved off 34 seconds. A few less seconds walking on some of the hills, a little speedier on the flats. But the truth is, I gave it my best effort, and if I could have shaved off those seconds I would have. I am proud that I was able to push through the pain in my legs and finish strong.

Special thanks to my friend Cindy for bringing a cold water foot soak to the finish line. You are the best! 🙂

Ice Age 50k Official Result:

5:01:47

3rd overall

2nd female 30-39

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Ice Age Trail 50 Race Report

I have given myself a couple of days to process, yet somehow it still doesn’t seem quite real. I often have this feeling after big races, as if it all might have been a dream. I woke up to my alarm clock at 3:40 am on Saturday morning after a surprisingly restful sleep. I did all of my usual pre-race things. Coffee, dressed, packed, pb&j, banana, car. I ate half of my sandwich along with the banana during the 45 minute drive to LaGrange. I wasn’t nervous, just ready. I arrived at the race site around 5:15 am, plenty of time to pick up my bib, use the facility, and hang out with some friends before the 6am start. Part of what I love about trail running is how laid back everyone is. There is no vibe of nervous anticipation jitters that you would feel at the start of a road race, just a bunch of people who would like nothing better than to spend the day running through the woods.

At 6am, we were off. I reminded myself over and over to take it easy though the first 9 mile loop. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t even starting to breathe hard, virtually no effort. I knew that it was going to be a long day, and that I’d better pace myself if I was going to enjoy it.

[photo copyright Ali Engin Photography]

The first couple of miles seemed really long to me, but I just tried to settle into an easy pace. I listened to a lot of conversations going on around me, but didn’t really talk to anybody. Once I got into a groove, the loop was over before I knew it. I started counting down the miles until I would see Steve at mile 17. I made it a point to eat early and often, and arrived at 17 feeling great, except for my right ankle which was feeling pretty stiff.

I asked Steve if he had any Advil in his car and he said no. Oh well. I continued on towards the turn around. The next portion was easily my favorite part of the race. I started seeing a lot of people I knew who were ahead of me coming back the other way, and cheered for each of them as they passed. I also counted the women ahead of me, and determined that I was in 12th place. My two best-case goals for the day were to break 9 hours and to finish in the top 10 for females.

After the turnaround, I saw a ton more people I knew that were still heading out. I said hi to everyone and great job. At one point the guy running just in front of me said jeez, did you bring your whole hometown to the race or what? I said no, just a really awesome running club. At mile 26 I saw Steve again, and he had procured some Advil packets from a gas station. I stuffed them in my pocket and kept running, still feeling good.

After a while, the miles started to wear on me, and I had my first low point of the day. All of a sudden my legs felt awful, I was sucking wind, and I didn’t know how the heck I would be able to finish. By the time I started up the hills on the last out-and-back section, I was hurting with nearly 20 miles to go. I took a walk break and threw an electrolyte tablet into my water bottle. Then I remembered the Advil and decided it couldn’t hurt to take one. I was a little nervous that it would upset my stomach because I’ve never taken anything like that while running before, but it turned out to be fine. I also ate half of a Larabar at that point and hoped for the best.

I don’t know what did the trick, but within 10 minutes I was feeling great again. The trail had flattened out and I felt like I was flying. I started to pick people off one by one, and I was so glad I had taken it easy in the beginning. I came into the final turnaround at mile 40 feeling nothing short of amazing.

With 10 miles to go, the end was in sight. I knew there would be one last really tough hilly section, but I got through it knowing how close I was to the finish. When I got to the final aid station at mile 48.5, I somehow confused myself into thinking that there were 3 miles to go. Don’t ask. Imagine my delight when a guy ran past me and said less than a mile to the beer!  This was the first time all day that I checked my total time, and I was absolutely shocked when I saw that I was about to finish well under my 9 hour goal.

My official time was 8:48:25, 8th female and 1st in my age group. I could not be happier with this finish, and I am so proud of this race. To train hard for months and then have everything come together perfectly on race day is a feeling like no other.

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50 in the morning

Food is packed…
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Clothes are ready…
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50 miles here I come!

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Filed under Races, The run

Up next

I amped up the nutrition in my Dreamsiscle smoothie yesterday by adding as much spinach as I could fit in the blender.

I know a lot of people are turned off by the thought of drinking something this green, but I love it. I can almost feel the nutrients going straight through my veins as I drink it.

After taking a few easy running days, my legs are feeling pretty well recovered from the half marathon. I had a great 10-miler yesterday afternoon through the neighborhood streets, and then an easy 5 miler this morning to loosen up.

So what is next you may be wondering? Ok, you were probably not wondering but I will tell you anyways. This:

I am signed up for the Ice Age Trail 50 mile run and I cannot wait! This run will be 19 miles longer than I have ever run before (my longest race to date is a 50k). After spending 2011 training for Ironman, I am excited to focus on running, running, and more running. If I complete the 50 miles, I will be the proud owner of a finishers belt buckle. Bring on the trails!

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Filed under Food, The run